2020 - August - Gazette - Finding Balance
With my work, I have the honor of accompanying people as they journey towards a new equilibrium in a life they’re making good again after losing a loved one. The wisdom these people impart touches me in deep ways and I want to share a few small pieces of that with you. Below are some of their thoughts about finding balance on the grief journey:
- In thinking about it, I realized "finding balance" on my grief journey is somewhat of a misnomer. Losing my wife knocked my life totally out of balance. I don't think I'm really finding balance as much as I'm just getting used to being "out of balance.” There are things I am doing that help me feel less "out of balance," like:
- going to grief support groups (very important, especially early on);
- learning to not hold my emotions in (it's ok to cry...even in public; it's ok to talk about my emotions; move the grief from the inside to the outside);
- pushing myself to accept invitations from friends (even when I really just want to sit home and be by myself);
- remembering my wife (doing so can bring on sadness, but it can also bring back the memories of being balanced); and,
To me, it's sort of like the new phrase we've been hearing in connection with the virus..."new normal.” Is it really going to be very "normal", or are we just going to adjust to being slightly "abnormal???” I'm not sure that's a good analogy for others, but it sort of works for me!
- My grief journey has taken many twists and turns. After my husband died in 2018, the first six months were a blur filled with fatigue, anxiety, confusion, and sleeplessness. Everything in my life turned upside down. I had support (and still do) from family and friends, but I needed a more structured support system. Five months after his death, I joined the Monday’s Moments support group which provided strategies to gain balance in a wobbly world. After two years, I still grieve my husband and still attend group sessions. My struggle is balancing the longing for the joyful life I had with him for 50 years and, now, accepting the reality of my present without him and being open to what could be. He often told me that he had faith that I could manage alone. So, I honor that faith every morning with my mantra, “I can do this,” and I strive for a balanced day. I begin by reinforcing my gratitude for the beautiful life we had and all that he left to me. I practice gratitude in service to others. I grow by learning new skills, making new friends, and taking care of myself with adequate exercise/rest and proper nutrition to flood my brain with endorphins. Consequently, I’m less anxious, less sad, and less confused than I was two years ago and am slowly embracing my solitude. Last but not least, I have more confidence with decision making. I am at peace with my progress and continue to look for joyous moments.
- I never thought about seeking balance during my grief journey. It never occurred to me as a goal. That might be the most important thing I can say. Nonetheless, one thing I knew from before I was bereaved was that we are large enough human vessels to hold both joy and grief, and that to honor our grief we need not let it eclipse the joy, and to feel joy is not to dishonor the grief. Knowing that, and knowing too that out of loss comes new life, helped sustain me and give me hope. I knew to look for the new life with curiosity, knowing it would come but not knowing from what direction or in what shape or form. To my utter surprise, because it had never occurred to me, friendships with other new widows have become an important part of my new life and I have you and have you and Beth McLaughlin to thank for that.
- Not long ago was the one-year anniversary of my son's death while he was denied another liver transplant. Soon it will be one year since my grandson died. These deaths hit me hard. I think of them every day. I could never deal with it if it wasn't for the fact that I go to Mass every day. God has defined death for me and I'm grateful. I no longer fear death but only as that it be orderly so my family can deal with it.
As you can see, finding balance is individual to each of us and there are no right or wrong ways to do it. One common theme in the above comments was gratitude. These wise souls lost their beloveds and still found ways to count their blessings.
Holding death before us in a seize-the-day-kind-of-way can help us find gratitude and live more fully now. It can also help us find balance. To that end, we invite you to join the upcoming Thankful, Thoughtful Tuesday series by attending to issues surrounding end of life.
This series of classes was originally conceived by Sandy Schuckers with the Centre County Office of Aging, Holly Reigh with 365 Hospice and me and has been held at the Bellefonte Senior Resource Center, the Active Adult Center and other locations around Centre County. This time we are offering it virtually so people can attend from anywhere. It will be held on Tuesdays, September 8 through October 13, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. on a video conferencing platform. I will facilitate these virtual gatherings and guest speakers will include: Faith Lucchesi, an attorney with DeBoef Lucchesi; Holly Reigh, the executive director of 365 Hospice; and, F. Glenn Fleming, a funeral director and supervisor with Koch Funeral Home. You’re encouraged but not required to attend all sessions. Please RSVP by Monday before the class.
You are also invited to attend:
- Monday’s Moments Virtual Gathering – “Finding Balance” on Monday, September 14 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. on a video conferencing platform. Please RSVP by July 30.
- Virtual Death Café, Monday, September 21 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on a video conferencing platform.
Additional information can be found by visiting the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the website. To RSVP and receive the online link invitation, email Jackie Hook by using the cotact form below, call 814-404-0546 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.
We wish you well in creating your own ways of finding balance.
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.